Learning and Teaching
Craving for a relationship, financial security, someone to look after me, or to be desired by someone make you blind.
Its your reaction that makes you burnt out. Watch and let go. Things got better in my life because I did not react. Ive been very patient.
To be too much in a hurry to get results can interfere with the process of progress. Do the right thing and wait patiently. I said Ive become very different this year; its because I think Im not so serious about results anymore.
Until we can accept that we are alone and until we can stand on our own feet, we cannot have a healthy, meaningful relationship with another. Dependent, exploitative, and manipulative relationships are not meaningful and cannot last long. A good relationship is very rare, even among family members.
We think we know what is good, and because we think we know what is good, we think we are good. Unless we know how bad we are, we cannot be real. Are you mindful always? You are thinking most of the time how bad people are.
I make suffering meaningful.
I am glad that my understanding of life is becoming more realistic.
We are all more or less idealistic.
Can you see your life without any religious point of view?
You are bitter but because you cannot express your bitterness you become depressed.
I am not innocent: I know I am both good and bad.
I have been talking with too many people for too long. My mind has speeded up I think fast and talk fast. This speed is very bad; it makes me agitated.
But now I am here, which is quiet and peaceful. I need to get in touch with the stillness in the depth of my heart. To be too concerned about worldly things makes one less concerned about the real meaning of life. What am I living for?
Being alone is necessary for me to get in touch with my innermost being. If we are not in touch with ourselves, how can we be in touch with others? Not being in touch with ourselves is the cause of not being in touch with others, which is why most people are lonely.
Its sunny today. The trees have grown a lot. Very shady here. The bamboo grove has many big, healthy, beautiful shoots; they grow so fast. So much power, they have, the power to grow.
Birds are singing: doves cooing from distant trees; small birds chirping; another bird whistling so sweetly. So cheerful, they are. And the wind in the trees so soothing to the mind and heart. A beautiful butterfly, flitting about.
Do you like classical music? I listened to a lot of classical music when I was young. I still remember some of it. It might sound strange to you to hear this about classical music: Mozart, Chopin, Strauss, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, etc. Get the best recording. Music is a kind of language: very poetic and profound. If you can get Nocturne by Chopin, listen to it: it will tell you all about life.
I am reading Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Jung again. Once you wrote to me about this book. I would like to tell you to read pages 33 - 4 and 44 - 5. I also have a very strong feeling of being two different persons, I have felt it since I was quite young. Although my parents gave birth to my body I am much, much older than my parents. I told T.T. about this because otherwise she wont be able to understand me. At first I couldnt understand why I did certain things. When I became aware of the older I it became clear: the older I knows that life is very short. There are things to be done. To understand deeply is much more satisfying than cheap thrills. To live a meaningful life is most important. I plan to educate my daughters. By that I mean Ill teach them about: Life, Mind, Relationship, Communication, Right Attitude, Meaning, Maturity, Struggle, and above all Mindfulness of ones own mind. T.T. is doing very well in watching her mind. That is why things are getting better in her life. We are very good friends. S.S. is also becoming more and more aware of her emotions and feelings. She is also doing body scan.
Isnt that passage beautiful? Its so sensitive and so profound.
Right attitude is very important in doing everything. Try to find out what right attitude is.
To do the right thing without too much concern about the result.
I am, hopelessly and forever, a learner. I will never be a teacher, but Im willing to share my learning which isnt the same thing as teaching.
You said bamboo shoots are not good for ones health. I found out that you are right. So I avoid bamboo shoots. I judge that it is not good for health (at least for me); but I dont criticise bamboo shoots. I dont hate them but I avoid them although I like them. I dont find fault with them. I told my friends that its hard to digest bamboo shoots, that they are not agreeable to people with poor digestion.
Some religious leaders and teachers, dont have intellectual honesty; they want to convert others to their religion. They teach things they dont themselves practise or believe, and they pretend to have all the answers to all the questions. Without absolute honesty there is no chance to see reality. Dishonesty clouds the mind. I am disenchanted with the shows of gurus, roshis, etc. It has become a profession, another way of a livelihood.
Anybody who is bent on converting somebody will become a menace, a liar. Anybody who wants disciples is an actor, a person in show business. The world is full of gurus who want to make a big show.
Is there a place with no trip? Can you make a place with no trip?
I am also very much frustrated about the teaching technique or approach of most of the gurus/teachers - all head and full of book knowledge. Too eager to convert people!
Dhamma is in living your life, not in books. If you dont understand your life, meaning your experience at this moment, you dont understand Dhamma, no matter how much book knowledge you have. Without under-standing your life, talking about Dhamma is just an intellectual game.
Some people think that if you know all the theories about how things work, you know everything well. How far from the truth.
No theory can explain how nature works. Every theoretical explanation is fragmentary.
Because my understanding of the practice of Dhamma is so different from most teachers, it is difficult for me to work with them. I cannot talk to any Sayadaw with real openness. It is hard for me to translate for somebody else for the same reason. I stand alone. The more my practice deepens, the more I see the gap between me and other monks widen. Sometimes I dont feel like talking about practice at all. I might never become a teacher and thats OK with me. I am no saviour but I might be helpful to a couple of my friends.
Its boring to talk to somebody who doesnt think for themself, who is talking from a book, who has no doubt, who believes in everything in the books. Even talking to is boring although he is nice and very innocent. I have lost my innocence.
People who read a map have very different ideas of the real landscape. Maps are useful; without them you can get lost, but you have to travel and explore to understand how the place in the map really looks like, and the two look quite different although they are related. There is a big difference between a map and a real landscape: a map is a simplified version of the real landscape.
I think the best way to prepare being a teacher is to deepen your understanding of the Dhamma. If you are deeply interested in the Dhamma then you have enough impetus to go on finding out, never resting for a while. Never feel satisfied until you get to the hard rock bottom. You know, one of the causes of the decline of the Sasana (the Buddhas dispensation) is inexperienced teachers teaching the Dhamma, inexperienced both in learning and practice.
To be too much in a hurry to be a teacher can be a great hindrance in ones practice. If you want to be a teacher you must be creative. Learning the facts and handing them down is not enough. You must understand people, their life, their problems, their capacity, their bent, and then talk to them in a way they can understand and can relate to. Help them understand their problem from a dhammic point of view. Guide them slowly so that they can see the true nature of reality in their own life, in their experience. To be able to do that you must first understand your life and your experiences, your problems, pains, happiness, joy, hope, in fact every aspect of your life. So, first understand yourself. Then help others.
You must also understand that dhamma is universal; it never becomes outmoded. Its suitable for all cultures.
I have heard many Western teachers distorting the Dhamma to suit their way of life to reach more people. Distorted Dhamma is no Dhamma at all. They dont have enough courage to live the truth, or they dont understand wholesome and unwholesome consciousness. You cant make an unwholesome consciousness become wholesome, no matter what culture youre born in. So you need a lot of courage to be able to accept the truth, see the truth, practise the truth, and speak the truth. Id rather teach the truth or not teach at all. No wishy-washy teaching. But first I must see the truth for myself and live it.
Real anicca (impermanence) is beyond the mundane level. Reading something in a newspaper and understanding anicca is intellectual. When you really see anicca it is what you are experiencing in the immediate present. There is no thinking. Its hard to write everything in a letter so much to say, so little space.
If what Ive said is meaningful for you Ill be satisfied. I am not for sale; I dont want to be bought or hired. I dont want to be an employee working for somebody or some organisation. I want to be a freely-functioning person. I dont think this is pride: its my self-respect.
I remember how some people judged me, or talked about me, for doing counselling in America. Ive been counselling since my high school days. I think the more knowledge and wisdom you have the better a counsellor you become. One cannot make a person become a counsellor unless one has a natural tendency for counselling. Its like being an artist. Only if you are deeply interested in people and life and their problems will you become a good counsellor.
What is the difference between a Dhamma teacher and a good counsellor? I dont see much difference; both are working with the same human problems. A good Dhamma teacher is a good counsellor. I understand that the Buddha was the best counsellor. What do you think, my dear friend?
A fragmentary or specialised approach to life will not work. One needs an all-round understanding. In the body, every part is related to every other part. So it is with life. Every aspect of your life is related to every other aspect of life. The economic, sexual, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual aspects of your life are all related. You cannot keep them separate. If you try to keep them separate your life would be unfulfilling. There will be no harmony but conflict instead schism. Paralysis.
Dont do anything you dont really love doing. We have wasted a lot of time doing things we dont really love doing. For dutys sake, to please somebody, "anaday" (feeling bad, embarrassed, feeling obligated) enough!
Im getting old. You are too. No time to waste.
Understanding peoples superstitions and stupidity is part of my education, but if I want to keep myself upset by thinking about other peoples faults, Im sure I can do that for the rest of my life. Its quite easy. Do I want to do that? Thats the question. An important question for me at the moment. Dosa (aversion) is painful.
Lets not waste so much time talking about peoples stupidity, and lets be more mindful of our own defilements.
Dont expect to change the world. Blind force (avijja paccaya sankhara) leading to blind action.
We are upset about people being religious (orthodox and close-minded); we are upset about people being too sceptical (which is another form of close-mindedness). They wont even try mindfulness. When will people become just what we want them to be?
Seeing my own limitations, how hard it is for me to see where I am stuck and to become unstuck. "People are stuck", you say. Only when you see clearly where you are stuck is there a chance that you might become unstuck.
People behave like they know what they are doing. Do they really know what theyre doing?
Self-deception. Sometimes it can be so complete that you dont even know it. Defensiveness makes you blind to your own weaknesses. We deceive ourselves in order to make ourselves happy. Sometimes it is painful to see our weak points; it takes a lot of courage, honesty and mindfulness.
You know I am deeply interested in therapy because I know how much therapy can help. A good therapist who is also a good practitioner of mindfulness practice can help a lot. He/She can help a person become aware of their stuff.
You know I am deeply interested in people. Ive been doing counselling for nearly twenty years. Its my nature, not my profession. Ive read a lot about psychological problems in Western countries. I dont mean to say that I can solve all the problems but I can understand them. I have the will to understand. Ive worked with many people with different problems and Ive helped them to understand themselves.
You have a lot of good qualities; you only have to develop them. If you understand dhamma in theory and practice you will be able to help many people as well as make your life more meaningful and productive. Dont you feel like you have something to express but couldnt? As if you have a treasure house but couldnt find the key to it?
When you feel really OK about yourself and the way youre living, only then can you really help others. So, its very important for you to get deeply in touch with your mind. Only when you see things very clearly in your mind can you find a way to live in harmony with yourself. With inner harmony you can do anything: help others, or just do nothing.
Please dont get into the trip of helping others and bringing the Dhamma to the West. First be at peace with yourself. Understand your limitations and defilements. After you have learnt to live peacefully and meaningfully, then think of helping others to do likewise.
Worrying too much about others, about helping others, about dhamma in the West, about corruption of dhamma in the West, can be a way of escaping from ones own meaningless existence.
Anybody who is trying to transplant Buddhism to America hasnt understood it well. One should take the seed and grow it in new soil.
I think the most important thing a person (either oriental or occidental) should do is to be mindful and to be even more mindful. Let mindfulness decide what forms the Dhamma should take on in the West.
Dhamma should be learnt in life, not in schools or retreats. Retreats are crash courses.
Is it possible to do nothing and feel happy about it? Im trying to find out.
Doing nothing is not easy, especially in America where doing is the main thing in life. Without support from those who are near and dear to you it must be hard to live in a peaceful place and just meditate. You need a very strong mind to do that. But if youre sure thats what you want to do forget what others think about it. Just go ahead and do it. The Buddha did that. Tell me if/when you find a peaceful home.
Glad to know that you have time to meditate. In a country like America, where people can do so many things and where there are so many distractions, to meditate is not easy. One gets older doing this and that, finding no real satisfaction in anything.
Im the only idle man.
I dont want to be busy. Being busy is a wasteful way of living. When youre busy, you get so involved that you cannot see whats going on in your mind. You become unmindful. So I dont want to be a busy teacher. Never. I talk about this again and again because I want you to understand me. I respect your wish. You want me to come to America. But why? To teach? To be busy? To teach what? Things Ive read?
The Pali text is such a great bank of treasure, containing so many clear instructions and guidance. Nothing wishy-washy like most fake gurus talks and books. America a land of gurus.
If you have to rely on somebody to explain to you the meaning of the text (Pali texts), you will never have real confidence in yourself. No translation is good enough.
You can learn some Pali; its not hard. In one year you could learn enough Pali to be able to read the suttas by yourself for the rest of your life. Americans are teaching the Dhamma in the West but they are not well grounded. No good foundation in learning and practice. Practice alone is not good enough if you are going to be a teacher. And the confidence you get from being able to read the teachings of the Buddha for yourself is unspeakable. Not having to rely on somebody elses translation is a big relief. Anyway, all translations are inadequate.
When you live differently you see things in a different way; when you live in a different culture you learn different things, even your own culture seems different to you. Your eyes become sharper. You see things that you hadnt noticed before. Values change; you become less rigid, more open. A different environment makes you alert. It calls forth different aspects of your nature. Youre compelled to use your resources that you dont use in your familiar place, resources that you didnt even know you had. So its very useful to be in a different country, in a different culture, and living with different people.
Books are my best companions. They enrich my life, giving me a deeper and broader understanding of the world I live in. I think I will read for as long as my eyes can see. Reading, meditating, walking in the forest, talking with some people sometimes, living a simple and quiet life, nothing to worry about: thats the way I will live the rest of my life, no matter where I live.
Yesterday I talked with the primary school children in the evening. Some kids recited poems, some asked me questions. One asked me why I took robes. I answered their questions as best as I could. I told them about my childhood days.
A lot of people came in the evening. Most of them are educated. They have a lot to say and a lot to ask. We talked for two and a half hours. Well now, I cant complain that people are not interested in meditation. We did group counselling. People shared about their lives with the group and I shared with them about my life and my experiences.
A lot of people came to talk with me. Its surprising that most of them are quite young, in their twenties and thirties. We have group discussions every day in the evenings. During the day I give interviews. It is very encouraging that so many people are eager to find out about meditation and Buddhism, to learn. Some of them are good meditators. So I am very busy these days. But Im happy.
I am willing to meet people and talk with them. I am very glad that I can be (am) a good friend. The time I spend with them is not wasted. It is inconvenient for me to travel but its worth the trouble. People do so much for me. So I want to give something back in return. All I can give them is metta (loving-kindness), understanding, and some advice. So if they cannot come to me, then Ill go to them.
Many people come to see me; most of them are newcomers. Now I see what theyre looking for; they are looking for a good friend and a teacher with whom they can discuss freely in a way they can understand. I hope to fill that gap to a certain extent.
I visit peoples homes in the mornings; have my meals in their homes; listen to their dukkha (suffering) and give them whatever advice I think is suitable. So much dukkha in the world. To accept the inevitable is very important for peace of mind.
If/when I come to your place, it will be just to listen to you and to talk with you and some of your friends. Im not a teacher; Im just a friend/brother. I cant make people practice, but if theyre practising and they want my advice Im willing to help.
The role of a teacher is full of dukkha. Im always on the alert to see if I slip into a role. Im happy enough to be a simple bhikkhu (monk) living in a simple forest monastery out of the way.
I have forgotten most of what I have learnt from books. I dont want to remember too many things. I prefer my mind to be empty, clear, and light, and not burdened with learning. I have nothing to prove, nothing to defend, and nothing to propagate.
People are full of conflicting wishes and desires. Most people dont know what they really want to do. They change their minds back and forth. Inconsistency is the rule.
Do you know that you are very sensitive? You know, people who are sensitive suffer more and they also learn more deeply than insensitive people.
You asked, "Do you trust many people?" To trust means to have confidence that people will not do anything harmful to you, that they will not use you. In that sense I can say I have quite a few people whom I trust.
An arahat lives his life without comparing himself with others. Others cannot do that. It would surely be more peaceful if we didnt "compare what is and what is not". But then our way of life would be very different from the way we are living now.
We go on living our life full of resistance: resistance to life and resistance to death; resistance to pain and loss; resistance to love (yes, really). Acceptance is so difficult. Children are not like that though. As we grow up we learn this resistance.
Thinking of you and feeling a bit anxious about how things are going on with your life. Uncertainty is most tiring. I am most concerned about your health. If you are healthy you can do anything no matter how hard. Do a lot of walking that keeps the blood moving around in your body, not too fast and not too slow. Whenever there is something wrong with my body, either in my lungs or in my stomach, or when I cant sleep well, or when Im dizzy, I walk at normal speed for a few hours, and it always helps; even when I had an infection of some sort I found that it healed more quickly this way.
U.I. and I walk in the evenings for a couple of hours, as usual. Mostly we talk about the nature of mind. Sometimes we talk about what people value most in their lives, and how that shapes and forms both their thinking and feeling.
There are good and bad things about everything, everybody, and every place. When we see bad things about a place or a person we should not forget the good things. We tend to see one side only. When were upset we tend to exaggerate the bad things, and when we are pleased we tend to exaggerate the good things.
Adaptability is very important for survival. Rigidity is most dangerous. Compromise in everything except your integrity.
You said, "Ive changed so much." Well, the process is just beginning. If you dont hold on to your old self-image the change will go on and on. You will feel like a new person, always changing and growing, and you will feel younger too. The old is always old; the new is always young.
Learning is quite painful, and acknowledging what is true is also painful but only then do we grow up.
You need some distance to see things clearly, to assimilate. When you are too emotionally involved with your experience you cannot understand it.
Understand your limitations. You can only do so much.
I dont want to put myself into a pigeon-hole; it is too limiting. I want freedom from a name, a label. I am what I am. I dont need to be categorised. Do you know the root of the word category? It comes from Latin and Greek. [LL categoria Gk kategoria accusation. Also; kind of prediction = kategor (os) accuser, affirmer (kategor (ein) (to) accuse, affirm, lit., speak publicly against)].
So, categories (affirming people) are becoming less and less meaningful to me such as Buddhist thats a category.
I dont like being affirmed, either positively or negatively.
My mind is becoming more and more free of categories, including good and bad, and things like that. I want to see the real nature of phenomena without naming it. I hope nobody misconstrues me. Why is naming so important? In some cases naming is the same as calling a bad name, accusing.
Another thing I want to talk about is regarding expectations. How do we know that what we expect is possible? Why do we need expectations? Why cant we live with what is? Aspirations/expectations make people feel good. When one (aspires) expects something elevated and good, one thinks that one is a good person. Sometimes aspirations and expectations are self-deceptions. They can also cause disappointment.
The Buddha said that when a person becomes an arahat he/she overcomes views and opinions. How full of views and opinions we are. Yet we are not sure of anything; were just a lot of talk; a lot of words blah, blah, blah.
Even though I am so loaded with facts and ideas, I still want to know more. My mind is over-crowded, but what is most meaningful, the essence of my learning, cannot be communicated directly and positively by words.
I know the superficiality of the world, and I know I cannot do anything about it. Sometimes I am superficial myself. Without mindfulness how can people be other than superficial.
I am reading the history book youve sent, Renaissance Europe. Its important to read history to get the wider and deeper understanding of human beings: how ideas and ideals change; how people create dukkha; how attached people are to views and opinions, which always change. Identification with views, religions, and nationality creates so much dukkha and conflict. Self-image creates separation and loneliness.
Have you noticed when someone writes something you know theyre writing it from their thinking mind, or from reading about it somewhere else? And when they write it out of their own experience and heart can you see the difference?
Have you ever really given any thought to where your problems come from? And how the web of ignoring the root of the problems has landed you in this situation now? Any pains, any remorse, any regrets?
How would you feel if someone does something to your children but with plenty of justifications?
Can you feel for others? If someone cant put themselves in the shoes of others and feel how they feel, what will the consequences be?
Have you observed the self-images you could have? Idealised ones, idolised ones, real ones, different ones, which you show to different people. Altogether how many? How can you reconcile them all? How do you put them into one self-image? Or is there such a thing as only one self-image? Then who is this big self? Have you met someone who has the same and constant self-image no matter who theyre with and where they are, and in any situation or circumstance?
When people start to label you, do you start to believe the labels and live according to what they say of you? How much of their perception of
you is right and how much is wrong, erroneous, or distorted? How much of what you see in others is wrong, erroneous, and distorted too?
Have you noticed that a number of people who hate evil are likely to be very evil themselves? Why? I have seen many who only watch out for the evil in others but not in themselves. Their own evil, they run away from it. Would it be true to say that by denouncing others they feel superior to those they deem evil and thus the feeling of superiority gives them the false sense that they are not evil at all?
A liar can do anything. Do you agree with this statement? How do you feel when a person lies to you? What do you think truth is? When a person transgresses truth, what is he/she losing? What does one get if one lives a life of lies and self-deception? Can a person grow and develop mentally and psychologically if he/she does not live a life of truth? What will one achieve if one remains at an infantile stage emotionally, psychologically, mentally? Is there any real lasting joy and satisfaction in staying at such a stage?
How are you going to deal with a person with two very distinct and extreme personalities? One persona is kind and caring; the other is cold, callous, manipulative, selfish, inconsiderate, unthinking, unreasonable, uncontrollable, unrestrained, and destructive. Have you met such people before? I have seen a few and I didnt know how to deal with them.
Words are very vague in meaning and communication. Many things cant be communicated using words. In many cases people just use words to impress, but the truth is far from the words themselves.
How to know oneself thoroughly? If one does not know oneself, can one know others and expect others to know us?
Have you pondered and asked yourself why you do certain things, and with what motivation, or do you just do things because there is a string pulling you to do them, without ever considering whether they are wholesome or unwholesome, harmful or beneficial? Are you controlled by old habits and itches rather than having control over such habits and familiar ways, which are not beneficial or conducive to happiness.
Is there such a thing as a fixed personality? Thus, is there such a thing as a leopard which cant change its spots, or can you turn a black crow into a white dove? Are human beings so weak that they wont and cant change for the better but have to be slaves to their old habits and ways? If there is no change, there is stagnancy.
What is forgiveness to you? Do you forgive yourself and others?
How much injustice has been done to you? How much injustice have you done to others?
Do you think its worthwhile to rectify your shortcomings and weaknesses, or would you prefer to stay so attached to your old self-images; that it hurts the ego too much if you change? Can you see the benefit of letting go of self-images and the ego which causes so much unhappiness to oneself and others?
What is loving-kindness? How to transform it into action in our daily lives? At the end of each day is there a reflection of what one has done, both wholesome and unwholesome? Is there a resolve to avoid further unwholesomeness? Or you just dont give a damn and you never think of it in terms of retribution?
If you are uneasy with the shadow side, you avoid it and run away from it. Have you noticed that your shadow never leaves you if there is a light around? It always follows you. How come light itself is not shadow or dark? How far can you run away from your own shadow? Have you ever given a thought to this shadow something that you dont know but perhaps have a very skimpy, superficial glimpse of but its too painful and fearful to delve into it? How can you solve problems and mysteries if you refuse to acknowledge what it is? Are you courageous enough to call them by their right names and expose them and then walk away from them?
Always be very alert. If it is something that you refuse to acknowledge and deny, and you stay away from (fear arises first), this is actually the time when you really need to look at them. They are always in the unconscious and can arise at any time. Do you dare to confront them? Have you noticed that in the beginning it can be very difficult to start something, but after a few tries it gets easier and easier. Like mindfulness practice, in the beginning it is difficult because the mind is attached to old and heedless ways always careless. But if you keep on persisting, you will see that mindfulness comes quite naturally. Practice makes perfect. Dont you think?
How do you see kamma working in your life? Does it work like a boomerang?
What is suffering to you? How many people have you subjected to suffering? Do you have any past involvement with harmful substances that have caused immense suffering to others? Will you, for the sake of self-gain, do something that will subject others to much unhappiness and suffering, and do it with ample excuses and justifications? If there is no guilt involved, is there a need to justify?
What is the meaning of life to you? What does life want from you? Why do you think you are here in this existence called life? Do you think it is such a precious opportunity to be born as a human being rather than as an animal or other lower forms of beings?
When you do things, do you do it on impulse or do you make decisions after considering the consequences first? Have you noticed how we are often required to make decisions in life? What are the criteria you have in mind when you make a decision?
Everyone wants kindness, understanding, love, and compassion from others. How much are we willing to give the same to others?
If you had only one month to live, what would you do in that month?
What meaning and significance does death have for you? Can life be meaningful and complete without suffering and death?
How much have you learnt from suffering your own and from others?
Do you dream nightly? Can you remember them? What sort of things do you usually dream about? Can you see how the conscious mind affects the unconscious mind in dreams?